Defender (Red) Defender (Red label)
© Williams 1980

This game is cloned in:
-   Defence Command 
-   Defender (Green label)
-   Defender (White label)
-   Defense Command (set 1) 
 -Above is  from

Clones are rom sets that execute the same functionality of a game but do not match bit-for-bit with the original.

From looking at the flyers it would appear that 'White' was the original Defender.  Note that Red flyers brag on Defender's record income, while the White flyers look more like introductions.  I'm not sure why Red gets the nod.  Green is definitely out of the running since it's a Taito licensed version.

The two others are hacks.  The code is pretty much the same except for the splash screens, which really suck (see screen shots below).

"The only legitimate use of a computer is to play games."
- Eugene Jarvis (creator of Defender)

Defender Intro/Screen Shot

My Defender Story

I recently recaptured part of my youth, not that the bicycles don't already keep me young enough.  But through the wonders of technology I've been transported back to my high school days,  1980 to be exact. The pinnacle of American civilization.  Demonstrated by the greatest achievement ever in the annals of human history.  The achievement was Defender.  Don't be fooled by the media into thinking that Pac-Man was the biggest arcade game ever, it just had the catching wakka-wakka sound.  Defender and Pac-Man were released in the same year and when the totals were counted up Defender had raked in $100,000,000 (a quarter at a time) and was named game of the year. In the intervening years that total has grown to $1.5 BILLION.

But that's digressing.  

About me and Defender, that's what I'm hear to talk about.  I remember my first sighting of Defender in an arcade on North Main Street.  We played Asteroids almost every day there.  Unless Dave T. was there.  He was one of those guys who could play Asteroids for as long as he wanted on one quarter.  If Dave was there then we were off to the 'Teen Executive' downtown.  Except for this one day.  Sure enough Dave was ruling the machine and I was turning to the door when I heard the sound.  Video games just didn't sound like that.  So I checked it out.  The cabinet was cool.  And the name 'D E F E N D E R'.  I stepped up and looked at the control panel.  This was the time when games usually had a joystick and a fire button or maybe two movement buttons and a fire button.  Asteroids had five buttons and was considered insane (even though the hyperspace button was almost never used).  Defender had five buttons and a joystick.  I had to check this one out.  I read the bezel card and figured I would last maybe five minutes or so on a quarter until I got the hang of it.  I plopped my quarter in and hit the start button.  My first man lasted maybe five seconds, before I flew into a lander.  The second man was blown away seconds after materializing when I didn't get moving soon enough paid for it.  The last man lasted about as long as the first.  This time I hyperspaced and blew up on reentry.  All told my first game of Defender lasted maybe twenty seconds from insertion of quarter to GAME OVER screen.  I was hooked.  I played Defender every day.  I sat aside all my Pizza Hut tip money to play Defender.  

Eventually I joined the military and moved.  I was stationed in larger cities that had higher turnover in the arcades.  Occasionally I would stumble across Defender machines but fewer and fewer as the years went on.  Until sometime in the early nineties it seemed like they were all gone.  Sure there were clones available for home game units, but if you ever played on a Defender machine you know just how lame the 'home' versions are.  Defender drifted away to the world of '67 Ramblers, bongs and Billy Thorpe.

But it turns out you can go home again.  

I was reading the December 2001 issue of Maxim and I stumbled across an article about emulators.  Now I've known about emulators for a while but I remember my experiences with Mac emulators to run PC programs (don't ask why I was dealing with a Mac) and had always figured they would just kinda suck as well.  But the article was intriguing.  It mentioned MAME as being able to run 'almost every coin-operated game of the past 25 years'.  I have to admit I was curious.  A program that versatile would be impressive to see.  But I still figured game play would suck.  I downloaded and installed it.  I really didn't expect to find much in the way of games.  Defender hadn't even popped into my head.  As a matter of fact the first night the only game I had found was a lame East German deer hunting game. But you know what, it worked like an arcade game.  The controls were responsive and the graphics were truly like the old arcade graphics.  There was no glitching, the thing played smoother than I would have dreamed.  This was really cool.  The next evening I figured I would dig around and try to find something like pong or night driver I figured might be available.  While searching I stumbled on it.  Oh! My! God!  Defender!  Holy Shit!  DE-FUCKING-FENDER!  Not some lame Atari 2400 knock off, but the actual Defender rom sets.  Five versions of Defender rom sets.  I downloaded them.  I rebooted into Win98 and started up MAME and BAM! it's 1980!  The sound, dear lord, the sound!   The raster test!  The imploding logo!  I was giddy with excitement.  Now I'm not much into modern games.  About the only thing I play is the Command and Conquer series and occasionally I still pull out Doom.  But last year I got Moto-cross madness and fortunately had got a really nice joystick so I could play it.  Man I'm happy for that.  

So here I am with the most influential program in my life sitting on my screen. I just stare at it.  I'm afraid to press 5 (the coin button) because it might crash.  It might slow down and get jerky and suck.  Finally I start a game.  My first man lasts about five seconds before I fly into a lander.  The second one gets blown away seconds after materializing when I don't get moving soon enough paid for it.  The last man lasts about as long as the first.  This time I hyperspace and blow up on reentry.  All told my first game of Defender lasts maybe twenty seconds from pressing 5 to GAME OVER screen.  I am hooked once again. 

I told the guys at work 'All I need is a bong and I'm back in high school'.  I've been playing Defender every day.  I'm like really happy.  Stupid huh, this 20k of code has such an affect on me.  I bouncing around like I'm eighteen.  I was telling a guy at work about it and got to describing the arcade, I remembered it like I just walked out of the door.  I could tell him where every one of the 'star' machines were.  I can recall who 'owned' which machines.  It's like I have this time machine and I can jump back to 1980 whenever I feel like it.  This is great!  So Thank! You! Nicola Salmoria for a great program.  And of course thank you Eugene Jarvis for the perfect program.

Of course now that I have the roms I need a full blown machine.  I'm looking for a basket case Defender box that I can rip the guts out and restore with modern equipment.  Or I may, if I can't find an old Defender build one from scratch.  I've been digging and was surprised to find how many of us there are out there with the same feeling for this game.  I've gotten the schematics and found places that do the stencils.  Now I just need to find a marquee and bezel.

Life is good!

Oh yeah, I picked up Robotron, Stargate and Blaster too.  I'm covered on Eugene Jarvis code.  


Defender (White) flyer

Defender (Red) flyer

Defender (White) flyer II

Defender (Green) flyer

Defender (Red) flyer II



Defender (White)

-Below is from

Designed and programmed by Eugene Jarvis, Larry DeMar, Sam Dicker, and Paul Dussault

The macho man's game!! Defender was noted for its sound and visual effects, and extremely hard gameplay. That didn't stop players from racking up millions of points on the game.

Literally minutes from the opening of the AMOA (Amusement & Music Operators Association)  Jarvis and his team were burning new ROMs for the display game due to the fact they plugged the first burn into the board backwards and fried them! Due to the intimidating controls, no one played the game and were even rumors saying Pac Man and Defender would bomb and Rally-X would be the next hit.

Not only did Defender have the most buttons to use during gameplay (It had 5 buttons, plus a joystick) but it was also the first game to have events occur outside of the players main screen.

A bug in the scoring occurs at 990, 000 points which allows players to rake up enough ships to take a much needed bathroom break, because everything you shoot after this point earns you an extra ship.

Easter Egg: To see the designers credits, do the following while in game play...

joystick down, reverse, 1 player start, thrust, reverse, 2 player start, fire, joystick down, 1 player start, thrust, and fire.

Tips and Tricks:

There are reverse lines for swarmers and mutants (sometimes called the "International Date Line"). If this line is between you and the type of enemy in question, they will travel the opposite direction around the planet to get you. (I.e. they won't cross this line to get to you.) If a mutant, say, is following you and you cross the mutant reverse line (to the left of the Big Mountain) it will suddenly reverse direction and go around the other way. The same is true for the swarmer reverse line (located approximately where your ship starts each wave). This doesn't affect swarmers that you are following behind. If you're on one side of the line and a pod is on the other and you shoot it open the swarmers will fly away from you and you can get in behind them immediately. The best use of these lines is where there are lots of swarmers and/or mutants that you don't want to hassle with. You stay near the line in question and go back and forth over it to keep the enemy in question on the other side of the planet. Especially useful in space and waves that get really hairy.

You can freeze a Defender machine by picking up all ten humans (on any wave, but Wave 1 is your greatest chance at success), stopping all forward motion of your ship, quieting the screen down (i.e. having no enemies moving around on it) and setting all the humans straight down quickly. This seems to work better were the terrain is very close to the bottom of the screen. Every thing will freeze, but you can still move your ship up and down. Thrusting will break the spell, so to speak. If you do pick a spot with shallow terrain, some humans will go thru the bottom of the screen and appear suspended in mid- air near the top. This trick is good during marathon games when you've reached Wave 256 and need a breather.

Some top players begin each round by shooting their own men, except for one, which they pick up. This keeps mutants from developing, but it also means that the world explodes if you crash. It probably goes without saying that this can be considered an -advanced- trick...

When you get your last official guy before 1, 000, 000, every time you score, you'll get an extra man.

The trick was to win 100+ ships between 990, 000 and 1, 000, 000, thus fooling the game based on where score rolls over rather than where ships roll over. The version where you win 100+ ships has been tested, the version where you win 256+ ships never was because:

a. For every point scored in Defender from 990, 000 to 999, 975 you will win one extra ship and smart bomb.

b. If you suicide on something, including a shot but not including hyperspace (because dying from hyperspace awards no points), you will lose one ship, but also gain one (net effect on ships is zero) plus one smart bomb.

c. For winning n ships in Defender from 990, 000 to 999, 975, including suicides, you will have to wait n x 10, 000 points after passing 1M before the game's accounting balances and it awards ships properly at 10, 000 point intervals again.

d. The score returns to zero every 1 million, meaning that if you had won 100 ships the machine would have to wait 1 million points to begin awarding ships again. However, since 1 million is equivalent to zero it awards them immediately at 1, 010, 000.

- or -

e. Being an 8-bit game, 255 ships is the maximum recognized. 256 ships/smart bombs is treated as zero. If you win exactly 256 ships during this period the machine will think you have won none and thus begin awarding ships immediately at 1, 010, 000. (This one has not been verified -- rb)

In either case, you get to keep your surplus ships and bombs and can have super long turns where you bomb 2 to 3 times per wave to get out of dangerous situations.

Splash Screen Comparisons

Defender (Red/White/Green) splash screen
Defender (Red/White/Green)

Defence Command splash screen
Defence Command

Defense Command splash screen
Defense Command

Defender Links

Arcade Restoration Workshop - Defender

James Defender Restoration Page

Kevin's Web Site

The OFFICIAL Eugene Jarvis FanPage! (Creator of Defender)

Yesterday Land's Defender Page





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